THE LAST LETTER - May 16, 2011

2 Timothy 4:6-7
"...the time of my departure is at hand.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished
my course, I have kept the faith..."
Much Love, Motra Hall



l
Kelsey will be home today so this will be the last post from me.
I've treasured the time spent keeping this blog for Kelsey,
her family, and her friends.
I hope you have all enjoyed following her mission experiences along with us!

May 16, 2011

Quite the fun and eventful final week around here. Highlights included starting all three English classes throughout Tirana. I was able to go to all the different opening courses this week in the three different areas, and it was amazing. Obviously our main goal in giving free English classes is to find new people that are interested in the gospel....and they think we just like teaching the painstaking English...haha. They got fooled! Of course we love providing services, but ulterior intentions....the life of a missionary.
So there was just a bunch of awesome people who showed up to
the course and I'm so excited for the missionaries here because they are going to have some great golden people to start teaching now. In one branch a girl came up afterward and asked how she could get "that" book, ie: The Book of Mormon, then she came tonight to a baptism and loved it. In another English class yesterday I was over in my old 2/4 area on an exchange with Motra Reynolds (she just got here in April and is super awesome) and after English a teenage girl came up and was like "I want to get baptized, can I give you my number?" COOL! She also came to the baptism tonight and told the Branch President there that she was going to be getting baptized super soon, and she still hasn't even had her first lesson. Anyway, it is kinda bummering (i know that isn't a word) to see all this awesome success happening just as I leave, but it also is awesome to see that the work will just continue and that even though missionaries are replaceable, the Gospel is not.

So other excitement on my exchange with Motra Reynolds included rediscovering how small a world it really is. She has some cousins in Yuma (Larry and Valerie Hall with three kids) and also apparently is good college friends at BYU with Quincy Savage. I felt kinda stupid cause I was like yeah I know Quincy, but I was confused that she was at BYU cause I just figured no time has passed and all those girls are still little and in Yuma Young Womens. Dang I'm old! But it was fun chatting about the same peeps we know.
I wrapped up this last week with a final P-day District Trip to Pocradec, a gorgeous city in the Southeast of Albania. It was actually pretty sweet because the Elders in my District and President Neil had apparently been planning this special trip, but nobody told us because it was kinda a surprise. We woke up here this morning and it was raining, so we debated waiting till Saturday, but then everyone took-one for not the team, but me and decided to just go for it.


It ended up being a gorgeous day and we made s
uch good time that we were even able to continue on to Korca, another neat city. The highlight of the day was probably eating Koran (yeah, the Muslims sacred book! haha) No, actually it is said to be an endangered species and endemic specimen found only in Ohrid Lake in Pogradec. Yes it is a fish, yet I still tried it. Actually I had a plate of spaghetti while everyone else had fish a t this seaside restaurant, but Motra Hoxsie gave me a pea size sample of her fish. I really only ate it so I could check the box on my bucket list, "ate an endangered species."

Ohrid Lake in Pogradec

And yes the mountains in the background are Macedonia. COOL!


Thanks for everything and I will see everyone soon!

Love, Motra Hall

April 18, 2011

Hope you all enjoyed a very pleasant Easter with no messy incidents with unboiled eggs or anything of the sort! We had a lovely Easter here and I did my fair share of boiling eggs, so I was grateful for the Mt. Sterling Cooking Course that I took to improve my egg boiling skills. Both of our branches had little Easter parties too, so that was fun to go to and take our new investigators to. The 3rd branch just had a little Relief Society activity to dye eggs, but here they just stick one color in the water while they are boiling the eggs and then just have solid colored eggs (usually red because that is what the Orthodox church does, so everyone thinks that's what we should do because we are a church). I guess it is a lot simpler this way and didn't require much effort or creative input on my part, so that was a plus.
The other branch (1st branch) went out Saturday morning to the artificial lake that we have here in Tirana and we had an Easter egg hunt there and played soccer, Frisbee, jump rope, and dodge ball. In fact we ran into the other two Tirana branches there also (2nd and 4th branch), so it was fun to see everyone. We took a new family with us there and the three young girls just had a blast, which was quite a relief. Unfortunately our little Easter lakeside party came to a close when some stupid teenage/young adult boys showed up close to where we were playing and started having dog fights. The "in" thing around here lately seems to be boys with pit bull dogs and so these idiots thought it was cool to bring their dogs into a park of kids and start egging them on letting them fight 2 dogs against one. It was disgusting and a couple of the Elders went and chewed out the boys afterward.


Anyway, moving on to happier thoughts. This week was super awesome for Motra Hoxsie and I. We finished off the week with 8 new investigators, all really awesome and all referrals from other missionaries in other areas. It's kinda funny because you spent day after day trying to find people and knocking on doors but no luck, and then within a couple nights other missionaries call with just amazing contacts for you. I don't mind though, we are just super grateful. So the first is a girl from Vlore that Motra Leit met on the van ride from Tirana last week. Her name is Ola and she is a student here in Tirana but was going home to Vlore for the weekend. She met with Motra Leit and then got my information and called me once she got back to Tirana. When we met her she was already so excited about the church and brought two of her roommates with her. One of them is also from Vlore, and they both know Enea Rrokaj from high school as well as some other people I know in Vlore. So we talked a lot about things they have noticed in him and they said he was just such a good example at parties, etc.
We had a great lesson with them and at the end Ola said that she just felt so happy and wanted to go tell everyone about this church. I told her that now she knows how we feel and that is why we are here on missions. Before we left the girls also asked about getting baptized and said they totally wanted to, and Ola even said she was ready "right now" because she felt so good. They are just all so cool and the neatest thing is that we decided to walk them home and to our surprise they live in the apartment building RIGHT next to us. The next day they also came to the Relief Society party and I think really enjoyed themselves. The older women were just so nice and invited them to come to their homes anytime for dinner. They also were happy to share their testimonies and how much they love the temple and doing baptisms for the dead, etc. It never fails that they talk about that first with new investigators. I just had to laugh to myself and then I went over after and explained it a little better. They thought it totally made sense and was totally normal! Yeah, they are super awesome.


As for the family we took to the Easter party at the lake....earlier in the week we had met with the mother and just talked a little about her faith and her life etc. In a simple summary, her life has been pretty rough. She and her five siblings were raised by her mother from when she was five because her dad ran off with some other women. She got married when she was fifteen and is now thirty with three daughters ages 14, 12, and 8 and her husband is in Greece trying to find work and she is living with her mother and her paralyzed grown brother. Still she accredits the blessings she does have to God and realizes that her trials have made her stronger. As I mentioned they all came to the activity at the lake and then they showed up to church on Sunday with three other neighborhood girls as well. I was kinda surprised that even after a long, slightly boring sacrament meeting, all the girls begged their mom to let them stay even though she had planned on leaving. They did the same thing after 2nd hour too and ended up staying a total of 2.5 hours, which I was pretty impressed with for a first time. The girls all said that they totally loved church and the oldest one even asked about how she could get baptized. The two neighborhood girls piped in about how it works. I had heard them earlier telling someone they were baptized, but I just assumed it was like when they were a baby in some other church cause that happens alot. But I started talking to them and they were actually baptized in our church just a year or so ago but somehow got lost through the cracks and randomly came because their neighbors invited them to go to a church for Easter. I still can't get over how cool that is. There is no way that ironically just happened, so I am so grateful that Heavenly Father is watching out for each of his children and is willing to use miracles to help them find their way back.

I guess that is all the good stuff I got for this week.

Hope you all have a super-duper fabulous week!

Love,
Motra Hall

April 11, 2011

Hey everyone! So great to hear from everyone this week. I love spending more time reading emails than writing....talk about a lucky missionary!
Obviously I have to wish a huge congrats to the new Miss Rodeo Arizona.
I've been trying to brag about how I'm the sister of Miss Rodeo Arizona, but I'm afraid no Albanian has any clue what that is. And my pitiful attempt to explain it just leaves everyone shocked and wondering why we don't use our cows and sheep for our own personal drinking milk.


So, nothing nearly exciting happening on this side of the world. We got all the dead missionaries off this week and got a huge big group of like 9 missionaries in. I'm feeling pretty cool though, since I'm one of the only people I know who have survived "death day," ie: the last day of the mission where you have a farewell party and do other dying stuff.

So on Tuesday I just hung out all day with Yourstone, Peatross, and Swenson and we had the official "reporting of our mission" at the Monument of the Heroes (where we started our missions), luggage weighing and rearranging (which was quite entertaining to watch, and I was grateful to not have to mess with it), a farewell party with the members, and some other relaxing activities. It's a little lonely around here with my second half (Yourstone) gone, but she has reported and is doing well over in the corn fields of
Iowa.

On a more positive missionary note, we finally got some new investigators. After weeks of tracting and street contacting, a little 12 year old boy just walked up to us while we were standing outside the Mission Home. He asked for a pamphlet and then I struck up a conversation with him for like the next half hour. He asked if we'd come to his house and then gave me some SUPER vague directions. The next night after asking lots random people for directions, we finally found the little shack where he lives. He still wasn't home from work, but we found his 3 year old brother and his deaf mother at home. We started a "conversation" with her once we finally communicated who we were and did some sign language for about 30 minutes till the 12 year old boy, his 16 year old sister, and his 18 year old brother all got home from work. Yep, they all have dropped out of school and just work full time. The little boy makes 50 cents a day helping a guy who sells fish on the side of the road, the sister works at like a shoe fixing place, and the older brother works at a car wash. They are all super nice though, and very respectful and pretty educated for not having school, and for having an abusive father. Ronaldo,the 12 year old that we met in the beginning just loves us and everytime we visit he says that we need to come even earlier the next day. It's just the beginning with them, but it was just cool how willing they were to start learning.

That is all I have for today. I will copy below now Motra Yourstone and my "Dying Messages." It is kinda a mission tradition that we have and it gets posted in the mission newsletter here. We worked on ours together if you can't tell. I don't have Elder Swenson's or Peatross's but in summary they just loved their missions and will be going back to BYU. As for ours maybe you won't think they are too funny cause they are a lot of inside jokes, but oh well:

MINE:
The Mission:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The best of times for me and the worst of times for Satan. Truly my mission has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was blessed to serve in the most amazing areas and with the most wonderful companions. I was able to work with the most fabulous members and teach the most incredible investigators. I have truly learned so much from each person I have associated with during my time here, and Albania has left a permanent imprint on my heart that can't be erased nor surgically removed for that matter.


Post-Mission Plans:
Return to
Ferrville, AZ to reclaim my first name. Go climb some mountains, travel, and go water skiing. Spend a year doing people's taxes and playing in Provo, then continue on to a legit school (not BYU) to get my MBA, which I will eventually be able to use as kitchen decoration when I'm the CEO of a huge household of kids. Avoid commitment as long as possible, and then elope to some temple with Motra Yourstone's brother, Scott. Raise our large posterity on a corn farm in Iowa, then spend our dying days as temple workers in the Tirana Albania Temple.

YOURSTONES:
Mission statement:
I started at the shore of Vlore and finished at the Lana of Tirana. At 3 months I had 2 fractures and a cast - shyyyqyr that's in the past. At 6 months I trained my cupa and learned her all I could teach. Three transfers later she returned like a leach. Joke! At 9 months I was surprised to get transfered to 2/4, serving with a Motra whose name rhmynes with Tetris once more. Twelve months out of the MTC and Motra Hall finally came to me. Adventures in Thethi to toasting buns in Gjinar, this has been my best year and a half so far. Seeing a life change or hearing a first prayer, is where I have found my mission's vlere. The mission has been an adventure everyday and I wouldn't trade it or give a second of it away.

Plans:
Live up the summer by hitting the racquetball courts, reclaiming my possessions from my sisters, camping, and making some money. Have a blast rooming with Motra Hall and SteckNover at BYU and finishing my last year in Biotech. Do a masters, get married, move into Hall's and Scott's neighboring corn farm, and live life to the fullest through raising a family in the church!

Translations (in yellow): Ferr - Hell, Lana - the river of Tirana, Shyyyyqyr - thank goodness, cupa - daughter, vlere - value.

Love you all and hope you have a fabulous week.

Motra Hall

April 4, 2011

Hey everyone! Not much new over here. We did have transfer calls on Saturday and the new transfer begins tomorrow. Motra Hoxsie and I will both be staying together, which is actually really nice. Motra Leit is going to be training though, so that means I'm going to be a grandma - quite the honorable status for a Motra here!

As for work it is rather slow, but Motra Hoxsie and I are still in the best of spirits. Actually we hit an all time low for my mission, just 8 lessons this past week. The funny thing about it is that we got to go to Vlore for exchanges and Motra Leit and I had 9 meetings in less than 24 hours there. Let's just say there are a lot more people in Vlore who wanted to see me than here in Tirana. It's all good though, I'm sure the work will pick up soon.
As for Vlore.....yes it was AMAZING! I hadn't been back to visit since I was transferred from there and walking down the boulevard was just like coming home. I went with Motra Leit and we were literally running from visit to visit just to try and see everyone. Luckily because we had so little time, I was saved from about 4 different dinners with people because everyone wanted us to stay and eat with them.
Also, as an FYI for you all, Brother RRokaj says that they are going to hold me hostage and not let me return to America. He's setting the ransom at 10 million, so start saving up! Oh, I also loved that Alseda's dad said that since I came back to Vlore he was going to give up smoking, but when he found out it was just for a visit he started smoking again. We just laughed!
On a sadder note I found out on Tuesday that Aurora's dad (the man named Hate that answered the door at the very beginning when we were tracting) passed away. I heard from one of our investigators here in Tirana that is cousins with Aurora. (Small world- I know!) So last thing Saturday morning before we left Vlore, Motra Leit and I went to visit her. She was so surprised and probably more overjoyed than anyone who just had a funeral should be, but I think she needed it because dealing with death here is super stressful. Obviously it is always a super hard time, but the traditions here are just really different and don't exactly lighten the load of the difficult trial. Aurora filled us in on all the traditions and it was super interesting/slightly depressing. The general idea is to pretend to never be happy again, ie: the immediate family must all wear black for 40 days and stay at their home to await and host visitors, the wife then wears all black for the rest of her life, no TV or any kind of entertainment for the first 40 days, no receptions or wedding parties for any of the daughters only quiet civil marriage at the court house, etc. Anyway, you get the idea.


Another cool thing this week is that in 3rd branch a new young couple from America moved in. They will be living in the American Embassy housing for the next two years and he will be working for the U.S. Embassy. They said before the end of the summer two more LDS families from America will be moving here also for similar work. It's going to be so amazing for 3rd branch because they really can use some more strong members. Also this couple has a little 7 month baby which was like the star of the branch yesterday. All the members are already in love and all wanting to hold him and play with him. So needless to say I think they found a very warm welcome here, and we are all excited to have them as well.

We loved watching General Conference here! It was my first time being in Tirana for conference and it was really cool cause all the Tirana missionaries went to the mission home and watched it with President and Motra Neil in their living room. Just like a big family here....still kids fighting for the comfy seats and kids getting shushed for talking during the choir. We never grow up I guess! But what a great conference! Hope you all got to see at least here a little bit of it. On Sunday we actually had technical difficulties with the Satellite so we ended up watching it on the computer and missing part of it when the electricity went out- typical Albania, but all-in-all still a great weekend!

I hope you all have a great week!

Love Always,
Motra Hall

March 28, 2011

I hope you all have had a lovely week! Motra Hoxsie and I have had a rather quiet week here in Tirana, but nevertheless a good week. I am a little behind in the times, but happy Albanian Mother's Day! It was actually on March 8th, but we didn't have the parties for it until these past weeks. Plus I learned that it is better to celebrate birthdays and holidays late rather than earlier because apparently to have an early birthday party before the actual day is really bad luck. Keep that in mind!
Last week and this week we were able to join the Relief Societies of our two branches for their little women parties. This weekend it was with the 1st branch, and they just had a little lesson and then one of the new members that we work with taught all the other how to make this Greek Dessert. I even learned! And believe it or not, I was actually one of the more knowledgeable people running the oven and stove in the kitchen! I think that was just because everyone is used to their own propane tank portable little stoves and not an electric oven.
Anyway, I think I earned some good brownie points with the women that night. It was actually really just great because I don't know as many of the women in the 1st branch, so just getting to know them and let them get to know me a little better was great! It seems like it may have been quite awhile since some of the older sisters that have years and years in the church have done anything with the Motras. I guess they had been sometimes neglected by the Motras in the past (not the Motras fault....they just have had lots of other work to do.) So anyway, I was able to start building some relationships with them.

Another reason that it's hard to give proper attention to all the members is because in our area we are over two branches (1st and 3rd), but it isn't like the other side of Tirana where I was before, because here we have two separate buildings which are a 30-45 minutes walk away from each other. So we are just kinda torn between the two, and try to share our time equally, but it can be difficult. Especially because 3rd branch seems to be a little smaller and weaker, so we tend to try and help out there more. So actually yesterday Motra Hoxsie and I did splits and she went to 3rd branch church and I went to 1st branch church (we obviously had temporary member companions). Obviously splitting up is the best way to get more done, but I'm just a little selfish and want to get to know everyone, so that is kinda hard. I guess I've just become a people person and I love getting to know ALL the members.

Okay, back to parties. So last week we went to the 3rd branch party for Women's Day/Mother's Day and I'll be honest, it was a lot cooler than the 1st party that I mentioned above. We went to a restaurant where they usually hold wedding parties, etc. and had a nice dinner and then had a sweet dance party. They had music playing the whole time but just some of the little kids who had tagged along with their mothers were out dancing around. But then the Relief Society President joined them and she couldn't get any of the other women to join her, except me. We started the Albanian Popullore traditional dance, and by the end of the night we had almost every sister out their dancing, plus half of the other people in the restaurant. I love starting cool things!
It was Motra Hoxsie's first time seeing the traditional dance and participating and she is now as converted as I am. It was hilarious though, because Motra Hoxsie with her blond hair, etc. has "American" written all over her, so after some popullore dances the DJ turned on some American 60's dance music. Hoxsie didn't disappoint though, she grabbed me and put on a little swing show for the whole place. Unfortunately neither of us know how to lead, but I don't think anyone else could tell because they were all loving it and some of the women even came out and tried to learn. Anyway, I think it was a great use of our lunch time and again we just had some major bonding time with all the women, especially the ones that usually don't get out too much to church.

As for actual work, we started working a lot with the branch mission leader in 3rd branch, Brother Vogli, and he is just amazing. He is one of the original members, in fact he learned English by reading the Book of Mormon before it was translated into Albanian, and he is just a spiritual giant in my book. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but it was his little 5 year old son that was going around with him to visit the other branches and would get up and recite the 13 Articles of Faith for the whole branch. Now his kids are learning the A of F in English and it is super cute! Anyway, Brother Vogli took us this week with his two daughters (Ester, 11, and Sara, 8,) to visit 3 families that have been inactive for many, many years. In each home we were very welcome and they all had signs of the church in their home, ie: pictures of temples or a used Book of Mormon sitting on the family book shelf, etc. These people all seem to still have great faith, but for various reasons had fallen away and become busy with life. Brother Vogli shared powerful testimonies with all of them and practically begged them to come back, but he was very sincere. And his daughters were super cute too and the little one would always ask before we left, "are you going to come to church Sunday?"
Despite all their commitments to come, not one made it to church and I was kinda disappointed, but realized that I can't always expect just one visit to correct all that has happened in the past years. I have great faith though in these people we visited because they all still have testimonies, they just need some strengthening. Many of them have been offended and hurt in former years by others of the church, and it is a struggle for them to understand that although the Gospel is perfect, none of the members or leaders are perfect---that is why we go to church!

Well, I hope you all have a great week! Happy Spring Breaks and good luck at the Yuma County Fair....that almost made me home sick thinking of showing sheep at the fair, but not quite! :)

Love,
Motra Hall

March 22, 2011

Hey everybody! It's pretty official (as official as mission gossip can be at least), I'm extending my mission until May 18th, so restart those countdowns! I know, I'm like the luckiest missionary ever....very spoiled! I guess we can start making new plans for then, the only thing I have going so far is the next weekend after I get back (May 28th), I'll be in Salt Lake City for the big wedding of Motra Bentley.

That is about all the big news I have from this past week though, everything else is just the day-to-day awesomeness of Motra Missionary life in Albania. We did have a huge District Conference on Sunday and it was amazing! That is when all the members in the whole country come together for a conference. Obviously seeing everyone was a HUGE plus, but also it was quite a fabulous meeting as well. One couple just talked about the Especially For Youth program and how all the youth need to take a part in it. I don't think I've mentioned this, but we are going to be having the first ever EFY in Albania and it is going to be this August. In fact it is the first EFY to ever be done in the Baltics, so it is a huge thing and we are even helping to promote it. I am so excited about it, even though I won't be here. It is just cool to see Albania progressing.
Also it was President and Sister Neil's last conference as well, so they both gave great talks. They will be leaving around the end of June and the new President will be Elder and Sister Ford from
England. They actually came and visited Albania last March and I was able to meet them-they will be great also. As for seeing everybody at conference, it was fabulous.
Motra Hoxsie was probably pretty bored just standing around while I talked to everyone, but I told her in a year she'll feel the same way. It was like a huge family reunion and I wished I had a few hours just to have enough time to talk to everyone. Everyone from Vlore was there, and it made me so home sick (for Vlore that is) to see them all, but also just an amazing feeling to see them well and progressing in the Gospel. In fact, yesterday was Marjana's anniversary of her baptism and she was telling me Sunday how she had planned a "birthday" party for herself to celebrate her baptism and was inviting everyone from the branch. I loved that!
During conference I wished I could have sat by everyone, but I only have two sides so I sat with Genti and Elba (both are well and send their love Motra Bentley). I am just so grateful that I have more time here and before I leave I imagine I'll be heading down to Vlore because a young girl I taught my last three months there is finally getting baptized and has been begging me to come. Knowing I'd be in Vlore again and that I still have another 2 months here made it a lot easier to see everyone and say good-bye after the conference. I don't know what I'm going to do when I really have to leave this place. I need an extension of an extension! haha!


So an interesting cultural tradition that I learned about this week. Every year on Summer Day (I mentioned this last week) everyone makes a little bracelet out of like string and it is simply red and white string twisted together. The red represents love and the white represents like a clean soul. And you wear the bracelet until April 14th, or technically until the swallows migrate back for the summer from their winter migration. Then you take off the bracelet and put it in a rose and the swallow is supposed to come and carry the rose away. This gives you luck and peace for the coming year. Megi made us these little bracelets so we can have luck and peace....I already feel pretty lucky and full of peace, but I feel cool now too with my bracelet.

So I forgot to tell you why we switched our p-days. We are heading out now for a District Trip to Kruj√ę, it is an older city with a castle and museum and stuff....I'm not really sure actually. But it is pretty famous and my District was so nice as to agree to go there because I had never been and it is kinda a "missionary must do." Anyway, I'm sure you'll hear all about it later.

Have a great week and much love to you all. Keep working on your patience....I know you are dying to see me. Haha!

Love,
Motra Hall

March 14, 2011

Gezuar Diten e Veres! (Happy Summer Day!) Greetings from a beautiful holiday in Albania.
All the Albanians have been shocked that we Americans don't celebrate "Day of Summer," but we just aren't quite the party animals as they are here. Most all the stores are closed and everyone is out walking the streets and playing. We just came from the center of
Tirana, and we could hardly drive through because there were so many people in the streets. It was kinda like being in a Safari, but instead of tons of animals attacking your jeep it was tons of Albanians surrounding Big Blue (the mission van).

Anyway, I decided to have a really special Adventure for Day of Summer, and I'm still not sure if Motra Hoxsie has forgiven me for it. So there is a famous mountain on our side of town called Dajti (you can Google it) and it has a cable car that goes to the top. Neither of us had ever been because it is usually closed on Mondays when we have p-day, but today for the holiday it was open. All I knew was that it was at the end of the road by the church, so I just start walking and following the signs. Once we got there we decided to just buy a one-way ticket and then find some other way home, ie: walk home, or catch a van, or figure something out to complete our adventure. So after wandering around on the mountain we decided to head back and to save time decided to just buy another one-way return ticket, but apparently those don't get sold on the mountain. Also, apparently there aren't taxis or vans just waiting at the top to take people back to Tirana (my bad), so we started walking down the mountain. We walked about 2 hours and lots of cars going up the mountain passed, but not one going down, and it seemed like we were still pretty high up in the mountains still after 2 hours of walking. Finally one little yellow car passed, and I was way to prideful to stop it, but Motra Hoxsie wasn't. The nice man let us hitch-hikers ride with him down the hill about 20 minutes (also he said he did taxi service on the side sometimes, so I guess were weren't exactly hitch hiking), and then he showed us where we could catch another van. About half and hour later this van came and we jumped on and were back to the church within another 20 minutes or so. So yeah, Motra Hoxsie was a really good sport, but I don't know how in to hiking she is....oops! It was definitely the memorable adventure we were going for.

On Saturday Bela got baptized! Bela is the girl that Motra Yourstone and I started teaching about 6 weeks ago that was "golden" and from the English class. She was so happy and excited and just so cute drowning in her huge white jump-suit. It was a really great day and it was so wonderful to see her again! It was also super cool because we had an investigator walk like an hour and a half in heels just to come to the baptism. We had told her and her friends the day before that they were invited to this baptism and they all said they wanted to come, but when we tried to call them Saturday morning they didn't answer, so we figured they just slept-in or something. Then the one quiet girl that had just kinda been listening in with her friends, but we didn't even have her phone number, showed up and she had found the church by herself. I was just shocked that she went through all that to come. She really enjoyed it though and we went and talked afterwards about it. Her name is Genta, and she isn't exactly sold on the Gospel yet because like everyone she says she is Muslim, but we have a start!

One more cool story from the week.....we were doing a routine visit to Rajmonda's, and wonderful woman from 3rd branch who had been inactive for sometime and is starting to kinda come back. Motra Hoxsie and I had been talking about it and decided we really wanted to invite her daughter to be baptized because she is always at church with her mom and obviously believes everything. I doubt you all remember, but exactly about 1 year ago Motra Yourstone and I were on an exchange here and we tried to do a lesson with this same daughter about prayer, but it didn't go so well. That is because she is 22 years old and is deaf, mute, and losing her sight. She really is an amazing young woman though and although she doesn't know any official sign language, she manages to communicate with her parents and even with me quite well (using lots of big hand movements and pointing). So we asked her if she wanted to get baptized and she said she wants to, but she know that she can't wear an "open" (I'm not sure if we use that word in real English, but it basically means"immodest") wedding dress one day when she gets married and she knows if she is baptized that she can't/shouldn't. So that is why she said no.....I was pretty bummed about that. But, the Lord is good and still seems to send blessings our way to cover our disappointments ----one of Rajmonda's casual neighbor acquaintances just happened to pop in to say hi. Rajmonda invited her to come sit down and listen to the rest of our lesson. This woman, Flora, loved it and said she had always been a follower of Christ since she lived in Greece. Rajmonda told her that she needed to start learning from us and that they could go to church together on Sunday and that they would stay for three hours. It was awesome! Rajmonda usually doesn't even stay at church for three hours herself, but this opportunity for her to share her testimony and be a member missionary just really helped her catch the excitement again of the Gospel. It's like feeding two birds with one slice of bread (that's similar to killing two birds with one stone, but I thought the "feeding" analogy was better for missionary work)----I love it! Before we left I gave Flora a Book of Mormon and she gave me her number and asked us to come over later in the week with Rajmonda!

Well gang, I guess that is about most of the excitement I have for the week! I hope you all have a wonderful week and choose the right!

Love,
Motra Hall

P.S. I know you probably got my "firm and final" travel plans for April 6 this week, but I thought I should just let you know that my return date is still kinda in the air actually, so don't make any kind of plans, ie: book tickets, take off work, etc. Next week I should know for sure.

March 7, 2011

Greetings! It's another lovely P-Day in Tirana, so I thought I should drop you a line and update you on a rather normal, but splendid week here.
Motra Hoxsie and I are just doing fabulous working hard and talking. I thought maybe I'd get more done once I left Motra Yourstone and our constant talking, but I talk almost as much with Motra Hoxsie too. Missionary life is so much better when you have a great companion and get along, something I've been blessed with m
y whole mission. Anyway, we discovered some of our other commonalities besides just being Aggies: tennis, the flute, and being loud and kinda crazy. The cool thing is we kinda cancel each other out with the last one, so we are quite a calm companionship now. Weird I know. As for tennis, she played down at Snow College and pretty much made me feel pretty bad about myself last Monday when we played. I am anxiously awaiting our rematch!
Anyway, moving on to exciting missionary stuff...This week we did quite a bit of finding which actually went amazingly well. Both when we went street contacting and tracting we were able to find reall
y interested people. Actually when we went street contacting it was kinda cool/funny because a girl kinda came right up and contacted us. I was so caught off guard because I'm used to people pulling out their cell phones as they walk by and starting a fake conversation just to avoid talking to us. Anyway, I was so caught off guard that I said some stupid pick-up line (about the Gospel of course) and then when she answered it sounded like she was speaking Italian and I was like "do you speak Albanian?" I'm sure that is actually what she was wondering about me, and of course she speaks Albanian--duh Motra Hall! Anyway, after I looked completely stupid she happily gave us her number and took some stuff to read. It was basically a freebie, which I was grateful for.
I'm so glad that we are having success finding, even though it honestly isn't my specialty, because then Motra Hoxsie can see how successful it can be and she will be more confident doing it on her own once I'm gone. As for tracting, my favorite excuse that we heard was "I don't take part in religion, I go to the orthodox church. I was born orthodox and I'll die orthodox." I wanted to give him a little news flash like, "hey buddy, the or
thodox church is religion too!" But of course I just smiled and wished him a good day.


Genti and Enea with I and Elder Warburton- they came from Vlore for a YSA activity


Despite all our time spent finding this week, we still made some time to visit one of the less-actives in the branch that missionaries have been working with for years. On this visit, after the usual complaints, she told us that we were going to make a dessert with nuts and bring it to her the next day because she really wanted it. I told her that she was out of luck, because Motra Halabuk (the one I just swapped places with) was the cook and Motra Hoxsie and I don't cook, in fact we still hadn't even touched the stove or oven after being together for almost 2 weeks. She told me I was a liar, and said, "you are like 20-something, don't tell me you can't cook." Of course Motra Hoxsie is just kinda sitting there out of the whole conversation, so this lady tells me to translate her "order" to Motra Hoxsie. I translated for her and I didn't say anything, but I had that look on my face like, "you can say yes, but I already said no." Of course Motra Hoxsie is a new, innocent, Christlike, sucker and she just gave in and agreed.
I was going to make Motra Hoxie bake the brownies all by herself that night, but I quickly realized as she tried to pick out huge egg shells from the mix, that she is possibly even more incapable in the kitchen than I am. So being the kind senior companion that I am, I stood over her shoulder in the kitchen and laughed at her while I washed some of the dishes. Apparently I didn't keep a close enough eye on her though, because when we came back in 45 minutes later to check the progress of the brownies in the oven, we still had batter sitting in the pan. She had turned the temperature knob of the oven, but didn't actually turn the "on" knob to the oven, so it was still completely cold. So yeah, we didn't get too much cooking done that night. On the bright side, we now know how to use the
stove top and oven.
This Sunday we (our district of 6 missionaries) gave a presentation in the 1st branch on member
missionary work. It went really well, and I think we got the members kinda pumped to start helping us out. That is if they didn't get too offended after the Assistants explained to them how we are the teachers and so when we invite them to lessons it doesn't mean that they should take over and do a half hour lecture on some crazy deep doctrine during the first visit with a new investigator. Oh well, it had to be said...it just happens like that soo much here!
I had another interesting reflection moment on Sunday as well. I recalled a quote I read or heard once from a General Authority that said, "I've never been in a boring church meeting." I guess I was reflecting on this as I looked around and noticed how "into" church all the newer members seemed to be, whereas many of the older members of the branch were the ones just constantly looking at their watches and appearing kinda zoned out. I decided I never want to be in another boring church meeting again, and that the only person who can control that is me. Like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it.
I hope you all have a fabulous week and enjoy my absence, cause it's not going to be lasting too much longer!

Choose the Right!

Love, Motra Hall

February 28, 2011

Howdy all! I know you are dying to hear about my new companion. Well, after just one day together I left her and went back to Motra Yourstone for a 2 1/2 day exchange. I know, great way to treat the newbie! It was necessary though because Motra Yourstone and I had to finish planning our training that we gave at the two Zone Conferences on Thursday and Friday.
Zone Conference - February 2011 (Kelsey and Motra Yourstone front row)
Our training actually turned out pretty good I think and it was good to spend a few more days with Motra Yourstone....she's just so awesome! Anyway, my new companion is Motra Hoxsie and she is really cool also. She comes from the great state of UT (Ogden) and is the youngest of 7 kids (yep, a Mormon through and through, I know!) And even better, she is a USU Aggie! So we are super pleased that our Aggies just won the WAC conference title for the 4th year in a row. Unfortunately she only was at USU this past year (the year that I was here in Albania) so we don't really know any of the same people like Motra Bentley and I did, but it's still all good.
I don't know how Motra Yourstone is going to feel about this though, because she almost had me convinced after this last transfer that BYU-Provo is the coolest place ever, but talking with Motra Hoxsie has reminded me how much we love Logan! Anyway, she is an awesome person and a great missionary. She is still so new here, so she is just on fire and is so excited about the work. Since she has to be training in just 5 weeks, I am doing all I can to prepare her and kinda let her take the lead. Sometimes it is hard because I can tell she is struggling to understand or to say something in Albanian, and I want to butt in and save her, but I think by letting her "run the show" she will learn a lot quicker. She is really doing great though, although I don't envy her at all being at the beginning and trying to learn this language. She has reminded me how stinkin' hard it was, so we try and talk a lot in Albanian. It's fun!

So about my new area.....it rocks! Motras are so
lucky here because all the areas are just amazing. And the awesome thing is that I know tons of the people here in the branch and even the investigators because I have met them before at District activities when all the members in Albania get together, or I have met them on exchanges or something. So walking into church on Sunday for the first time didn't seem weird at all because over 75% of the faces were familiar....probably more familiar than walking into the Yuma 1st ward. Haha! So needless to save I have had a super warm welcome from everyone which in some cases included some huge meals.
Also, it's also super nice that I know lots of people and have at least heard their "stories/situtations" from Motra Yourstone or other previous Motras who served here, because since Motra Hoxsie only had a month and a half here and is still super new, it of course isn't that easy to take over this large of an area and know everything and everybody.

Zone Conference - Returning missionaries in the front row!
So about this training that Sister Yourstone and I did....well we thought it was pretty cool. We were training on how to have effective Weekly Plannings (a pretty dull topic to be honest), which is the few hours we take each week to sit down and plan everything for the coming week like what we will teach people, how we can help them progress, when we are going to do what, etc. So we decided to try and make things a little more exciting so we had a little hands on competition. We had two volunteers come up and they both had an "assignment" to complete. They each had to make a batch of cookie dough. One person had all the ingredients measured out and ready to just be dumped in, and Motra Yourstone walked them quickly and simply through the steps of the recipe. The other person had all the same ingredients but they weren't measured out, and they didn't exactly have all the tools like a mixing spoon or the right measuring cups, and I was supposed to give them the directions and measurements but I was kinda just like "whatever just put in like a handful of sugar, etc." It was quite entertaining, and it of course helped everyone to see how necessary and how much better it is when we plan and prepare for our missionary work. Anyway, we then had prepared all the ingredients for cookies for each companionship and gave them as a handout (you know us girls, always thinking about the cute handout!) I guess we are just glad it is all done!

Well, I guess that is all I have for this week! I hope you all have wonderful weeks!

Love and Miss you tons!
Motra Hall

February 21, 2011

Happy President's Day! Hello all you patriotic people who hopefully have the day off from work and school to celebrate all those Presidents in our lives.
I have the long waited results of transfer calls......I'm headed off to the other side of Tirana to spend my last transfer. I will be serving with Motra Hoxsie, the newest sister that just got here in January. I kinda have a fun, interesting role I guess because I am what we would call her "step-trainer" since she is still new, but I also am preparing her to be a trainer herself in just another six weeks. I think that will keep me busy so I can't get too trunky. It was pretty weird for Motra Yourstone and I to get our last transfer call though. Oddly enough when we got home Saturday night we just wanted to go straight to bed at like 8:30pm instead of waiting up for the long awaited call from President because we were so pooped. Man we are just getting to be such old farts!

We did have a super awesome last week together though. It is so funny to have the best week of the transfer happen at the very end and find tons of awesome new investigators and people to teach, just as I'm leaving. I just have to laugh. At least I'll be close though, so Motra Yourstone will keep me posted on their progress. As for the girl I mentioned last week:

(A piece of Motra Yourstone's email....cause I'm getting old and lazy to write myself):
"So guess what! This is the exciting news for us this week. Bela has a baptismal date for March 12th!!! She is really excited about it. She said that she feels so happy about all the things that she is learning. She said that she wants us to do a lesson with her on patience because she can't wait for her baptism! There was another baptism this week for a 66 year old lady from Shkoder. They came to Tirana to use the font. Bela was going to come, but she showed up 1/2 hour late so she missed the ordinance. We were a little disappointed about that, but she is still doing great. She came to church on Sunday and seemed to enjoy it. We love teaching her so much.
I will tell you a little about her. She is a 30 yr old girl that looks like she is about 20. We found out this week that she is engaged to a Muslim American who is from Quincy Illinois! She is trying to get a visa to go there. that would be awesome if she moved to Illinois! she met him cause she was helping him learn Albanian while he was here for a few months. Now she lives at home with her super controlling mom and little brother."

Okay back to me! So I actually have something that I have been holding out on all of you my entire mission here in Albania. It is a major cultural thing that is done here, but I don't like it so I never talk about it. This is it....in Albania anytime two people greet each other they KISS! I hope you all are enjoying your mental pictures of me being kissed constantly all day and hating my life. Actually it isn't that bad because it actually is just like kisses on both cheeks (like French people), and with most people it is more like bumping cheeks and just making that horrid kissing noise. Also, it isn't so bad because as missionaries we only kiss our same gender.

Also I got to meet this week the infamous Nene Hava. She is a super old woman who has been a member of the church for about 10 years and lives in Elbasan but moved down here to Tirana with her daughter cause she can't live alone anymore. When I was first here at the beginning of me mission I got to meet one of her granddaughters and then after I left she was baptized. Sadly though, she never told her grandmother about her baptism because the family was afraid that she would have a heart attack from the intense joy that it would cause her. So the whole time we were there Nene Hava was just talking about how she knew that Ines would one day be baptized, etc. She also recounted to us countless Bible and Book of Mormon stories as if she had been right their as a front line witness. I have never heard someone talk about the Prophets of the Book of Mormon like she did. It was as if she had a personal relationship with each of them and they were like facebook buddies or something. So awesome and such an amazing woman. She is now knitting booties for my future babies. So cute!

Well, anyways I guess that is all I have for this week! Love and miss you all tons and hope you have a rocking week!

Love Always,
Motra Hall

February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! Greetings everyone, I hope you are all enjoying an exciting, special lovers day over there! You can be sure we are spreading our fair share of love over here....the Love of Christ that is!

Anyway, on to my super awesome, random, adventurous week of sharing the gospel. We started off this past week with some unexpected opportunities to give a little service at little old Vera's house. I doubt you all remember Vera, but she is the cute old women that taught us how to make pizza on my very first night in Albania with Motra Bentley. Love that woman! Anyway, we swung by to give her a little visit because she hadn't made it to church in a couple weeks and she told us that she had been praying that the Motras would come visit her and could help her because she was so tired from taking care of everyone else (her 90 something mother, brain damaged 30 something daughter, and jerk husband) that she had no energy to finish scrubbing down her stove. But scrubbing her stove wasn't the only thing she let us do.

She also pulled out some blood pressure tester thing (the one that you wrap around your arm and pump up) and asked if we knew how to do it. We said no, but she said, "that's okay, we can learn together. Check my Blood Pressure." So I got all official and I put the stethoscope in my ears and wrapped the thing around her arm and she kinda explained how her husband did it and how you just read the little meter. I'm pretty sure her "reading" was completely wrong, but she was satisfied that her blood pressure was way too high and she blames it on her three problems (the three people I mentioned above). After pretending to test Yourstone;s blood pressure ( I say pretend because we couldn't find her heartbeat, but Vera wanted us to still test her, so I just made something up), we got our next assignment.
"Do you know how to cut hair?" Vera asked us. "Well, I've sheared my fair share of sheep, " I replied. That apparently satisfied her, and asked me to give it a try cutting her daughters hair. It was hilarious! First they gave me some dull office scissors, but they weren't cutting so instead I hacked her hair off with a little pair of scissors from a manicure kit. It seemed to take forever, and I was just grabbing pieces and hacking away basically. And the daughter kept spraying hair spray on while I was cutting.....I guess she thought that would help. As I was finishing her daughter told me that I was even better than the beauty salon. So I guess I know that if I can't find a job when I get home, I can always come back and open a hair salon here!

Also, exciting news from that same day as the above incidents...Motra Bentley finally got engaged! It's great being on the other side of the world, but still basically getting instant updates on what is going on over there in UT from all the our Albanian friends who live on Facebook. We had at least three people call us or tell us in their lessons that they had seen on Facebook that she finally got The Rock. It was awesome....totally made our day, although with the hair cutting and blood pressure tests of course. Anyway, Shume Urime Evette....we'll talk dates later!

On another awesome note this week, we started teaching a super awesome, prepared girl. She is from the English class that we started a few weeks ago, and she is just a doll. After a lesson that we did at the end of one of their English classes about growing our faith and finding truth, she came up to me and asked what more she could do to feel closer to God. We scheduled a time to meet and then when we finally met with her this week she told us about how she had joined some baptist church about 13 years ago, and was active for about ten years, but in the last few years has not attended anymore and now she just feels empty inside like something is missing and wants to know how she can feel like she is okay with God again and change the person that she is becoming. We had an amazing lesson with her, and she told us about how she felt exactly like Joseph Smith. In our next lesson with her the next day we came her a Book of Mormon, and she acted like she won the lottery or something. She was so grateful! Anyway, we are super excited to keep meeting with her and help her find her fill that empty void that she has. It is just sooooo awesome to meet such prepared people, who really are wondering and searching for truth in their life!

My week was also topped off with an awesome weekend visit from Genti, Enea, and Eris --- the Vlore boys! They all came up Saturday night for a YSA Dance here in Tirana. As soon as they got here Genti called to see if I would be around the church that night to see him. Of course we were there for some other lessons, so we got to talk for a bit. Then they all spent the night with some friends, and came to our branch the next Sunday morning. I was able to go to Sunday School with Genti and he totally rocked in the lesson with tons of input, comments, and participation. It was sooo awesome to see how much he has grown and what an awesome member he has become. He was telling me that he has already been talking with President Smith and that he's working to get the Melchizedek Priesthood in October (which will be his one year anniversary as a member). Anyway, it was just so great to see him! Love that kid....in a strictly missionary way of course!

Oh, and awesome cooking moment of the week......all the glory has to go to Yourstone on this one. A member taught her how to make popcorn from just kernels and on the stove, since we don't have a microwave. I had already learned this handy trick a year ago from Motra Bentley, but Yourstone wanted to give it a try. As it was starting to get popping, I told her to shake it a little so they wouldn't burn to the bottom. She shook it all right! She shook the lid right off the pot and there was popcorn popping right out of the pot everywhere-so what did she do? She threw the pot down and ran away from the stove...hiding for cover from the flying popcorns. We had popcorn everywhere after that, and I was just laying on the ground paralyzed laughing!

Anywho, I guess that is enough from me this week! I love and miss you all and hope you have a fabulous week. If you are all counting, then you will know that this week we will be getting transfer calls, so next week you'll know where I am going and with whom for my final transfer. I'm pretty sure I'm headed out, so I better start packing now!

Love,
Motra Hall

February 7, 2011

Hello! Greetings from a very cozy internet cafe on my little hometown Myslym Shyri street. Sorry to bust your bubbles, but not too much new here in my little part of the world. Motra Yourstone and I are kinda in a little dry spot of our missions with basically no investigators or too much potential work, but we are still loving life. We are just glad that we at least have each other, although we aren't so pleased that the time is flying so fast and we are down to our last two weeks together. So basically the first time in our missions, we have been pretty forced to go tracting. We have been creating a running list of all the reasons why people don't want to talk to us or hear about our message. It is quite entertaining and keeps us laughing after a long day of very little success. I'll give you a little sample here, although they might not be as funny for you:

-I am on pension.
-I have people (in my home).
-I can't stand.
-My daughter in law is learning for school.
-It comes to me sadly, but I know everything.
-I have my own books.
- I have every book.
Our reply: Do you have this one (Book of Mormon).
Their reply: No
Our reply: So we would like to tell you about this book and give it to you. (something like that)
Their reply: But I have every book.
-I'm atheist, I believe in only one god.
-I'm not in a state to listen.
-I'm sick.
-All prophets are wrong.
-Are you Jehovah Witnesses. (At least 90% of the people we talk to ask that!)
-My hands are wet.
-Woman yelling through the door, "I can't find my keys" (to unlock the door).
-A little boy answers the door and we ask for his parents. We hear him go back and talk to them and then he comes back and tells us "they are all asleep."

Anyway, I guess some of those are kinda legit excuses, but we still are pretty entertained keeping a running list!

So our excitement this week included back-to-back exchanges with all the Motras. Motra Halabuke came over to my area and we worked together for 24 hours while Motra Yourstone was over in her area with her trainee Motra Hoxsie. Then the next day both Motra Peatross and Leit came up from Vlore for exchanges with us. I spent the evening with Motra Peatross and we had a great time visiting some of her old people. It was fun to see Motra Leit also. She is doing wonderful as always and I would have liked to spend some more time with her, but I wanted Motra Yourstone to get a chance to see how awesome my little cupa is!

Also this week we went out for drinks and a lesson with some of our kinda investigators, who in all honesty probably just enjoy us and learning English more than our religious lessons, but we are giving them a chance. It is a sweet mom with a 12 year boy who is super awesome and probably would be baptized if it weren't for his dad, and also a little 2 year old girl. So we were out at this really nice cafe and trying to talk to this mom, but I was stressed up the wazoo because this little girl was running everywhere and screaming and raising havoc. The mom didn't seem to care and must just be used to it because she just cries for something and her mom gives it to her. I was appalled. I don't know why I am sharing this story, it is pretty useless, but Motra Yourstone sure got a kick out of me freaking out after that little appointment about how I couldn't focus on anything because that kid was going crazy. I didn't even notice the sweet tunes playing at the cafe because all I could think about was how this little girl should be locked in a closet or we all would be kicked out of the cafe. Moral of the story: Never spoil your kids because they will turn into little monsters! I am learning the most useful stuff on my mission!

Well, like I said not to much more exciting stuff around here. Even though neither Motra Yourstone or I cook, we are surviving fine. In fact this week we made scrambled eggs and the top layer that wasn't burned to the pan was actually pretty good. And then last night we steamed vegetables (we learned that from some of our old companions) and made rice. Motra Yourstone was eating her rice with soy sauce until I introduced her to my way...plain rice with powdered sugar. We then had an excellent breakfast today of cold rice and powdered sugar. I highly recommend it!

I love and miss you all and hope you have a super awesome week!

Love always,
Motra Hall


January 31, 2011

Happy Last Day of January!
Sorry but this is going to be a short one today because we used our P-Day for a District Trip to a place called Gjinar, which is a tiny little little village out a ways from a city called Elbasan. So we mostly used up most of our day, including most of our email time, out loving life in the middle of nowhere. It is so great being in the oldest District in the mission, cause the newness of seeing big tourist sights in Albania has kinda worn off for all of us and we just want to hang and enjoy being people. I am not sure if that makes sense, but this is what our trip consisted of so that you get an idea.
We drove out to the middle of nowhere and then hiked a muddy trail back into a little forest in the mountains to a pond where we skipped rocks and just chilled. Then we made a little campfire (good thing we had those Eagle Scouts with us!) and roasted hot dogs. I even gave in to peer pressure and ate 1/3 of a chicken hot dog that I charred black hoping to burn off all those unknown chicken parts inside. Then we had a snow ball fight in the snow up there in the forest until our hands were raw. Then we hitched our way back home. Yeah, we are pretty pleased right now with our very untypical trip that we had. Sorry that had nothing to do much with missionary work, but its some of those sideline joys that just make my life so much better.

On the missionary work side of things: We were able to take a young girl who is 14 out with us on Saturday who was recently baptized, because she wanted to kinda have a missionary experience. She just loved being in the lessons and says she wants to spend all her free time coming with us and can't wait to go tracting with us next Saturday. At first she said she would just kinda listen in on the lesson since it was her first time, but she didn't make it through the first lesson without asking if she could say something or share her testimony. It was so great. At first I was thinking it was a little sad that she told me at the end of the day that this was the coolest and happiest day of her life (and it actually was a pretty normal/lame missionary day for us), but really I love seeing her excitement for missionary work, and it inspired me to want to love it EVEN more!

Love and miss you all tons and thanks so much for all your support and prayers!

Love,
Motra Hall

January 24, 2011

Greetings from a cold dark bomb shelter. We were surprised to find that out here in our refugee camp there was even wireless internet to connect from our phones....static.

Old cement bomb shelter/bunker

Okay, sorry just kidding, we are doing great here and just hitting up the usual internet cafe by our house. President Neil told us that we are supposed to report to you the following:
"Please tell your parents in your email this week that you are well, and promise that you will stay well clear of the demonstrations, and will go to your apartment at the first sign of trouble!!"

We heard that President emailed all our parents to let them know we are well, and we really are fine. It sure has been a crazy week though. Someday remind me about this and I'll have to share all the awesome stories I have, but for now I'll keep it on the down low so the Socialists don't come after me next. I guess I can at least give you a brief little summary of the whole Protests and Riots from our side. Our District Leaders just casually told us Thursday night to avoid the center of the city and government buildings the next day due to some political protests that were scheduled. We didn't think too much of it, but rescheduled some of our appointments, since that is our area. Then the next day we were at a lunch appointment and the people had on the TV and the news was just doing a live broadcast of the protest, which as you probably have seen video coverage/pictures, got super violent. We continued with our day until around 4:30pm when we were called and told to go back home, so we had to cancel the rest of the lessons for the day.

Socialist party protest in Tirana

It was pretty weird being just 3 or 4 blocks away from all this craziness (yeah, Motra Yourstone and I live the closest of all the missionaries to where this all went down....we feel super cool!) yet inside with no TV or radio....just kinda in our own little world. We cooked like 10 liters of soup together during that time! Fun! So it wasn't till the past couple days that we have got a little more information about everything just from members and people we talk to. It was interesting in church because it isn't like Utah where everyone is Republican :), but instead the branch president got up and talked about how we need to be peaceful and pray that this can all end, and then one guy got up and started talking in his talk about how he was there at the protest, and started naming off some other members that he was proud to have seen there with him, even though they weren't being violent. Us missionaries all looked at each other and were like, "are we understanding this correctly?" Super interesting!

Anyway, the embassy is keeping President updated, and we have a couple days this week that we probably will have to be in the house again for safety, but really we are all really fine. Don't worry, if I really wasn't safe I probably wouldn't tell you so much about it! :) I'm just glad that of all people I have to be stuck in a house with for lockdown I get Yourstone.


On a brighter note, I got to give a talk this week in one of the branches. I kinda got stuck into doing it...this is how it happened: we were visiting a member girl and her husband who was visiting from England and is taking the lessons from us when he comes to visit (she still lives here because she can't get a visa yet), and she said that she couldn't do the talk that the Branch President had given her for this Sunday. So we made her call him and tell him herself on our phone. As soon as she hung up, he called right back. We made her answer it and he asked for a Motra.

Motra Yourstone threw the phone at me like a hot potato because she knew exactly what he wanted. I lost the hot potato fight and when I answered the phone he wanted me to do the talk that the member girl had just cancelled. Motra Yourstone thought that was really funny....I know we are really immature missionaries. Anyway, I was the annoying first speaker who always takes up all the time, but everyone seemed to enjoy my talk (I say this most humbly) so I didn't feel too bad. Especially since the closing speaker was the lame boy who was talking about how he was at the protest instead of talking about his topic.

A cool thing this week though was getting to visit Sister Hanzi, one of the original members who joined the church here in Tirana before the Book of Mormon was even translated into Shqip. She is one of the neatest, most faithful members I have ever met, so it was neat to talk to her. She of course wanted to show us all her pictures that she has taken with missionaries over the years and also her diary that they all write in. It was fun flipping through and finding a couple old college friends in the photos who had served here many years ago (German Ellsworth & Ben Cannon). I have been trying to find traces of them my whole mission, so it was neat. Also the Elders found an entry in her journal from a Yuma missionary, Elder Nielsen. Another small world moment, brought to you by the Albania Tirana Mission!
I'm a little short on stories this week because we spent 2 whole days doing trainings and then the couple days inside due to protests, etc. But I thought I would give you a little taste of Motra Yourstone and my training we did this week. We were assigned to provide a 10 minute motivational talk on "finding" for the whole mission. The only thing we could think of to motivate was a cheesy poem that we wrote ourselves. It was actually a big hit and Pres. said he was going to put it into the mission history book. We felt cool. Here is a copy for your enjoyment, although sorry about all the inside jokes:

Knocking doors will never get old
If we always testify and be bold

Finding Finding is so fun
We're glad the elders do a ton (elders have a lot less people to teach than sisters, and they always give us lots of referals)

Have a coke or do you prefer Rockie
One more qeras (treat) is gonna kill me

You finally get in and your lesson goes great
But in the end you find their daughter just wants a date

We will teach with faith and great care
But we can't help if they choose Ferr (hell)

Tracting can be kinda hard
When the nena (old lady) pulls the nje Zot (one God) card (most heard excuse for not wanting to listen- one God for all)

What we have to give is the truth
Even if that xhaxhi (old man) only has one tooth

When you really out of luck
Just go and feed a duck (president's advice from an old training)

We are teaching what is true and right
But still they call us Jehovite (that means Jehovah witnesses)

Zero lesson (first lesson when tracting) goes great, baptismal date set
You invite them to church and they say kismet (way of saying maybe but usually means no)

When they won't listen to what you say
Wish them better luck in Boten e Shpirtrave (Spirit World)

So when your tracting and your down
Think of this poem and get rid of that frown!

That is all I have for this week! I love you all and hope you have a great week. Be safe and remember God loves you! And don't worry about us, we promise to not go set up any display tables and try and pass out church pamphlets to the protesters.

Love Always,
Motra Hall



January 17, 2011

Welcome to the weeks end review of Motra Hall's Mission Life in Albania. It was actually a slightly less eventful week on my end, although as always, just wonderful! We of course got our big training that I mentioned last week out of the way, a whopping 7 hour meeting....luckily we only had a 1 hour piece of that! And have been trying to prepare again for two more trainings this week for all the missionaries in the mission. Funsies!

So among the many people who hailed my glorious return to Tirana was my little Motra Korita, who will now be referred to as Marsida, who was a little overly excited to have me back. In fact she was so excited that she held my hand through all of sacrament meeting last week. I endured it well, and just kept looking forward to the small hand breaks where I could go play the intermediate hymns. I know that sounds probably really creepy, but it is just Albanian.....they are quite the loving, touchy people. I'm still not really used to it....oh well!

Anyway, this really just had connection because the Motras here have been helping with Marsida and taking her to the hospital, so we got to have an adventure this week to another hospital with her. President and Motra Neil took us and Marsida, and Marsida's mom to the Greek Hospital here in Tirana to try and schedule a surgery date for her knee. Although the Greek Hospital is a lot more clean and slightly more legit than Vlore's hospital, it was still not a place I would ever want to have to go. I think it made it extra entertaining that we had Marsida's mom with us. She is like....well, a mom. Unfortunately they still weren't able to schedule the surgery because the Dr. had to talk to the Doctor in Greece who would come in and do the surgery. And then at the end he wrote down on a little scratch pad "ACL surgery"...real official I know. But the problem is that that wasn't even the original surgery that was discussed and everything he was telling her wasn't matching up, like recovery time, etc. It was probably one of the few times I've been grateful that I had ACL Surgery because I understood what was being talked about, and was able to tell her later that this Dr. guy was really off on what he was saying. So we are kinda back to square one and will probably have to find a new Doctor or something. Anyway, I guess that gives you Marsida's update. And the moral of the lesson here is that everything happens for a reason, even if it is so you can help someone later....even stupid injuries!

While I'm in the grateful mood I'll tell you another story that made me SUPER grateful for my life and growing up in America. We went to visit an older man and his family this week that we just started teaching. They are referrals from a recent convert, but this time she wasn't able to go with us to visit them, so we went alone. We only found the two young daughter-in-laws home with their little baby boys, but they still let us in to have a lesson. Just a little background: the man we are teaching lives in his house with his wife, his two sons, and their wives and 2 baby sons. So basically the guys go out all day, and maybe work, and the daughter-in-laws jobs are to stay home and clean and cook for the parent-in-laws and take care of the baby. So we tried to get to know these girls and the one who just had a little baby boy who is just a month old is twenty-one and has been married for about 2 years. Although that is at least reasonable, the sad thing about her is that she grew up in a small village outside of Tirana and her older brothers were super typical, jealous Albanian boys and wouldn't let her go to school. So she has like no education except maybe a couple years of elementary school at the most. But that isn't the worst, the other girl who has a 1.5 year old little boy and has been married for three years is only 16 years old now! You can do the math on that one! So yeah, I left that lesson feeling super grateful that my dad didn't sell me off when I was thirteen to go clean some mans home and make him babies.

Other exciting moments this week.....well probably sacrament meeting yesterday. It was one of those meetings where you wish none of your investigators had come to church because all the talks are so crazy. The first guy went on for about 50 minutes with all kinds of false doctrines and crazy science stuff and even had his daughter come up and they did some kind of dialog. I was pretty much not understanding any of it, but I didn't feel too bad about myself because one of the Albanians was translating next to me for a senior couple that was visiting here from Germany and like half way through the talk he said he was sorry but he didn't even understand what the guy was talking about so he stopped translating. Then the second talk was some older single gal who got up and started going off about the commandment to be married and how God commanded Nephi to go back to get him a wife. I know on the surface that doesn't sound too bad, but the way she was going at it was quite painful, especially since we finally got our single, 30 year old actress to come to church. Anyway, luckily she spent that whole meeting like texting or something, so we hopefully will be spared to difficult of explanations in her next lesson. Love it!

Well, the only other exciting news is that last week Motra Yourstone and I got our hands on some tennis racquets and found a court by our house and have thoroughly been enjoying our P-Days there....only for a moderate time of course! A few days of soreness has totally been worth it all to be on a court again. And well, companionship wise we haven't had any big fights yet. We still are debating about who is Senior Companion. I say it is her, but she says it is me. Tough spot we're in! And we have had to agreed to disagree on one other thing.....BYU and USU. So yeah, life is SUPER AMAZING! We are loving every moment of it all, and trying to make the time slow down, but it's not working!

Well I love and miss you all and hope you have a super awesome amazing week!

Love,
Motra Hall

January 10, 2011

Greetings from Tirana! I made the safe journey here at the beginning of the week and it seems like Motra Yourstone and I have been going non-stop since I got here. I was worried I wasn't going to be able to fit all of my junk into my suitcases and I was a little sore after carrying all those heavy suitcases down the stairs of our Vlore Apartment, but we had an elevator here in Tirana so I'm doing much better. :)
So Tirana.....it is pretty much awesome! I loved Vlore and it was hard leaving all my people and my super awesome Motra Leit, but as always I just re-fall in love with the next place. Awesome things about Tirana that I had forgotten during my time in Vlore and that I'm now rediscovering and enjoying: tons of great places to eat!
Motra Hiland, Motra Kelsey Hall, Brisi, Motra Leit
Also, I have been in Tirana for almost one week now and only received one smart-aleck comment/cat call from a boy, whereas in Vlore we couldn't even walk outside without getting at least half a dozen or more stupid comments and pick-up lines. I guess I probably never have talked about it, but I pretty much hated almost all boys by the end of my time in Vlore. Anyway, moving on.....I am in two super legit branches. I enjoyed my first Sunday in a long time just sitting back enjoying church and not being responsible for anything except playing the piano in both Sacrament Meetings. Sister Yourstone was excited for the break from piano. And I was just loving the fact that all the classes had teachers and that the bulk of the branch was adults and families instead of just a bunch of chaotic kids. Don't get me wrong, I love my crazy Vlore Branch, but it is nice to experience something new now too!

Coming back to where I was exactly one year ago has also been super cool. We got to visit some of my old investigators, who are now awesome strong members. We also visited some of my old investigators that have been lost over the past year and are excited to have me back and start learning again. And I had a more than warm welcome from tons of the Branch Members in both branches. I was surprised that so many people remembered me and were so happy to have me back. All in all, it is just great to be here again!

As for my companion, well things have been kinda hard. I'm not sure how much I've told you all about Motra Yourstone, but she kinda is like an exact replica of me, but a more perfect version. So as you can imagine things are basically just crazy...we are having soooooooo much fun together that I'm surprised we get anything done. When I say things are hard, I just mean it is hard to get things like journal writing and letter writing done because we can't stop talking and loving life! It really is so awesome! I feel totally spoiled to just have one good companion after another....but I guess only the good companions can deal with my craziness!

Also, since Motra Yourstone and I are the old fart Sisters of the mission here in Tirana we are automatically designated as the Coordinating Sisters of the Mission. This was something I managed to avoid my whole mission while I was in Vlore, but my turn has finally come. It actually is kinda cool because we take part in the mission council and plan trainings for all the leadership and other missionaries, but we also have to GIVE the trainings. So we are now trying to prepare for a one hour training for all the District Leaders this coming Wednesday. We didn't have too much notice, so it has been exciting trying to find time to plan it all out. Luckily Motra Yourstone is amazing at this kinda stuff, so I'm not too worried!

This week we met with a super awesome little 12 year old girl named Klea who has a college-aged brother who is a member. She apparently has been coming to church for a while (a few years) but slipped through the cracks and never learned from missionaries. So Motra Yourstone and I decided to meet with her and ask her if she wanted to get baptized. She was kinda shy about it, so we told her what she had to do to prepare and promised her that if she read, prayed, and came to church she'd be ready and want to be baptized by the end of February. She then told us her birthday is February 4th and that it would be cool to get baptized then, so we told her no problem. It was like too simple to be true....like I said, we are just super spoiled and blessed!

We also are teaching lots of other wonderful people....I'm sure I'll go into more detail in the coming weeks. Just know that I'm loving the mission, from the area to the people to my companion....it is just all sooo good!

Love and Miss You all tons!
Motra Hall